Press Releases

Larsen to Kiley and Pentagon Brass: “Disastrous and Horrendous Failure of Leadership”

Washington, DC, March 8, 2007

At a House Armed Services Committee hearing today on the challenges and obstacles wounded and injured service members face during recovery, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02) condemned reports of substandard conditions at Walter Reed and other Army facilities and urged Army Surgeon General Kevin C. Kiley, Army Chief of Staff General Peter J. Schoomaker, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness David S.C. Chu and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs William Winkenwerder -- all of whom testified before the committee today -- to improve health care services for active duty personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I do not want you to think the morale problem at Walter Reed is a function of media exposure, it is the function of a disastrous and horrendous failure in leadership,” said Larsen to Army brass.

“We’re here because we need to ask, why did this happen in the first place,” Larsen continued, “Secretary Gates, to his credit, has come down like a ton of bricks on this issue, and frankly, I hope he has a few more tons of bricks to bring down before, during or after the independent review process is done.”

Larsen also urged Army leadership to speed up screening for traumatic brain injuries sustained in combat.

“Traumatic brain injury is of great importance,” said Larsen. “We can’t wait too long before we try to screen some of these folks. We need to screen faster, and we need to catch it sooner.”

Traumatic brain injury is a growing problem among wounded men and women returning from combat. It has been called the “signature injury” of the Iraq war. Symptoms can include headaches, irritability and sleep disorders as well as memory problems and depression. Soldiers can sustain traumatic brain injuries without having visible external injuries, making prompt screening particularly important.